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USL eCup – Race for the Bracket

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/07/20, 9:30PM EDT


Who needs what to reach the knockout stage as we enter the final round of group games?

El Paso Locomotive FC's victory against Rio Grande Valley FC set up a Texas-sized showdown in Group 4, with San Antonio FC also vying for a place in the knockout stages of the USL eCup: Rocket League Edition.

Eight of the 16 berths in the knockout stage of the USL eCup: Rocket League Edition have been claimed after the first two rounds of group play, but that leaves the other half of the field to be determined over the next three nights.

Ahead of the final round of group games, here’s a breakdown of where every group stands – and who needs what to have a chance at challenging for the title over the next two weeks.

Group 1

Tacoma Defiance took two hard-fought victories against Louisville City FC and Reno 1868 FC, and thanks to that – and the head-to-head tiebreakers that go with it – it is guaranteed of finishing in first place in the group. That means all eyes should be on the matchup between LouCity and 1868 FC, with the winner certain of a place in the bracket and the loser heading home.

Group 2

The Charleston Battery are into the knockout stage after two impressive victories against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Austin Bold FC in its opening two games. That leaves one spot for the Switchbacks and Bold FC to battle over, with the winner moving on.

Group 3

With two wins out of two to start the group stage, Phoenix Rising FC and the Philadelphia Union II will square off for top spot in their final group game. For Toronto FC II and San Diego Loyal SC, all that remains is a chance to restore some pride with a victory.

Group 4

El Paso Locomotive FC put itself in a strong position to advance with its victory against Rio Grande Valley FC on Tuesday, with the chance to add not only a second win against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC to round out the group but also earn a sizeable bump to its goal differential in the process. The Toros, meanwhile, are going to likely have to defeat current group leader San Antonio FC by a 2-0 margin to try and force a three-way tie for first. If RGVFC can achieve that – tying the game differential tiebreaker – it will have a chance to remain ahead of Locomotive FC on the third tiebreaker of goal differential.

Group 5

Saint Louis FC is in control of the group, and could offer the Richmond Kickers a ticket to join it in the knockout stage as it faces North Texas SC – which sits at 1-1 after its victory against the Kickers on Monday – in its final game. Should Saint Louis come through with a third win, Richmond would claim second with victory against the New York Red Bulls II.

But there is also the potential that STLFC, NTSC and Richmond could all finish 2-1 if the Kickers and North Texas take victory, where game differential, or even goal differential, could decide things. On the flipside, wins for Saint Louis and New York would leave North Texas, Richmond and the Red Bulls II each at 1-2, again sending us to game differential, or goal differential, to decide things.

Group 6

Just as in Group 3, it’s clear-cut as to which teams are moving onto the bracket with Union Omaha and Loudoun United FC set to square off for the top spot. And, after Energy FC’s Billy Walton announced his retirement from eSports following his loss to Omaha, OKC will look for an upturn in its fortunes when it faces Hartford Athletic for third place in the standings.

Group 7

FC Tucson has booked its place in the knockout stage in convincing fashion ahead of its clash with Las Vegas Lights FC, but that means we’ve got a win-or-go-home matchup between Indy Eleven and Greenville Triumph SC to determine who will join them. Indy has an edge on goal differential going into the matchup, but there aren’t going to be any tiebreakers needed in this Championship vs. League One showdown.

Group 8

Just as in Group 7, we’ve got another intriguing Championship vs. League One matchup to determine which side will join Birmingham Legion FC in the knockout stage. FC Tulsa looked good in its opening contest before falling to Legion FC, while Forward Madison FC’s introduction of Mitchell Meerman paid off handsomely in its first win of the tournament. With two of the hottest brands in North American soccer – and maybe the world – facing off, there’s no telling what might happen.

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